WOMEN AT CWRU
EDUCATION • SUPPORT • EMPOWERMENT
ELIZABETH WALKER - DEAN OF WOMEN 1951 - 1959
1951 Student Deanships
The Student Deanships were created as a means of co-ordinating the all-university agencies such as Reading Improvement, Health Service, Placement Service and the programs of the personnel officers of the several colleges. The action provides for the two deans as well as for a Co-ordinator of Student Affairs at Cleveland College. It also established the University Chaplin as a member of the staff of Dean of Students.
The new program also established the University Committee on Student Welfare consisting of the personnel officers of the several colleges andthree members of the faculty of Arts and Sciences. IT provides for several appropriate committees, one of which is to study and define areas of responsibility of various college officers and Dean of Students to insure continued autonomy of the colleges in the matters of student welfare and the co-ordination of services for the best interests of students, according to Dr. Millis.
FROM THE ALUMNAE FOLIO for JANUARY, 1969
By Elizabeth Walker, ‘39
It is an understatement to say that the past ten years have brought many changes to the Mather campus. The student themselves represent the greatest change. For example, prior to 1956 more than half of each freshman class were students from Greater Cleveland schools who lived at home rather than on campus. In September, 1967, only 85 of the 366 freshmen lived in Cuyahoga County. In other words, the number of freshmen from the Cleveland area has remained fairly constant, but the total number in the freshman class has tripled. As a result, we have become in less than ten years a residential campus with an increase in dormitory population from approximately 400 to over 1100.
In addition to the radical change in the relative size of the commuting and residential groups, there has been a change in the residential group itself. The geographical statistics of freshman classes shown in the table below illustrate that change and suggest that the students can now bring to one another a wider variety of environmental influences.
Not only have we seen changes in the size and character of the college during the past decade, but we have found the students themselves to be a different group. Their attitudes and values reflect the attitudes and values of their families and of the communities where they live. Only 25 years ago the parents of college freshmen were men and women who had been born soon after the turn of the century and had lived through the World War I period. Both parents and children had faced the challenges of a major depression and recession. Our students then were seeking security—financial rather than personal.
The parents of the present college generation were born after World War I. They had known the hardships of the depression as children and started their married lives during or immediately after World War II. Some of the families moved several times while the children were in school and in many, both parents worked wherever they lived. Parents and children have enjoyed financial security for the most part, but the children have not experienced the same personal security and stability within their families which their parents had.
A less important, but perhaps more obvious, result of these changes in family life is the lack of concern on living. This is a “wish and wear” generation. Students, both boys and girls, who have worn shorts, levis, sweat shirts and tee shirts almost exclusively for the first ten or twelve years of their lives are most comfortable in that “uniform.” So if we tend to criticize their dress, or their manners, we should remember their earlier patterns.
Our present students are the later post-war babies, but they still suffered the effects of the high birth rate at that time. Their schools were overcrowded and the faculty and staff were often not ready for the large groups who appeared each fall. Theirs were the first few classes who were subjected to the use of data processing equipment and who often saw and heard numbers instead of names. All of these factors have influenced our present college generation. They have had less personal attention and perhaps less personal security and affection than any previous group. If some of them are “turned off,” perhaps it is with good reason.
There is, I hope, no “typical” Mather girl, but our students do show patterns which are common to many. They are seeking identity and recognition as persons rather than as groups. They need and want privacy, but they seek intimacy, too. They want to understand and to be understood, but often they haven’t learned how to communicate effectively. Some have been “brushed off” so often that they don’t know how to react to personal attention. They are idealistic and sensitive and therefore troubled by the ugliness and violence they see. They don’t want to be led but they do want to be heard. They want to learn but they often lack the discipline to become really successful students. They are, indeed, an interesting and challenging group of young women, sometimes difficult to work with or to understand but never dull.
As students change, so does the life on every campus. The change at Mather has been even more dramatic because of our rapid evolution from a commuter to a relatively residential campus. Although group identity, per se, is relatively unimportant to our students, they do have and sustain a “ready-made” affiliation in their dormitories. Among the students in the eight large dormitories, we find very few who move from house to house and almost none who move from complex to the other. To be a Cutter girl or a Sherman girl is all of the group identification that most of our students need.
Obviously, this change has affected the interest in sororities, which formerly provided the Cleveland girls with a social “group” and furnished an important link between the commuter majority and the resident minority on the campus. We now have only three sororities, but they have strong support from their members, who have chosen a sorority as an activity important to them, rather than having accepted membership as a necessity in order to have some affiliation on campus.
DECADE OF CHANGE
The classes as distinctive groups and the class activities as such have also become increasingly unimportant. Most of our commuting students have substituted for their class the Town Association with headquarters in their own Town Lounge across from the mailboxes in the basement of Mather Memorial Building. Even the representation to “Gov” is based on dorm membership or membership in the Town Association.
The interest in self-government both in the college and in the dormitories is strong and both governing groups are responsible and effective. The changes in their focus and philosophy demand a separate discussion, but I will say, unequivocally, that the Mather girl is still an “independent critter” with her own ideas of what needs to be done and the ability and concern to carry out those plans.
Another change in emphasis among the students on campus is their concern for others and their willingness and desire to be involved. As I have said, they are idealistic and they are troubled by the poverty, the prejudice and the neglect that they see in our city and in the whole country. They do, indeed, question the morality of the war in Vietnam and they want to express their views. Many students volunteer individually through their own Volunteer Board to serve in agencies in the city or support group volunteer activities or join social action groups. We, too, have our demonstrators.
The dormitories themselves reflect most of all the decade of change at Mather. They are not only centers for living but also a center of campus activity. The casual, friendly atmosphere portrays more eloquently than words the simplicity of the lives of the busy young people who live there; they have little interest in frills or formality.
Most of the dormitories have open house each semester, but otherwise the social life is personal and independent. Fraternity parties are no longer the favorite pastime on Friday or Saturday night; the girls prefer parties with small groups of friends or entertaining their dates at “home.” Their request for parietal hours was a sincere reflection of the need for privacy for young couples who want to talk, to listen or records or to study together. The boys like to come to our dorms and we are glad to have them there, either as guests upstairs or in the lounges. We are glad that we have the kitchenettes, too, because the girls often prepare snacks or even occasional suppers for their guests.
The Snack Bar, which is opened every night from 10:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. in half of the Wade Dining Room, is a popular place with both the boys and girls living in the dorms. The Olive Tree, a coffee house sponsored by the United Christian Movement, is another favorite spot for couples or groups of young people. The pattern of their social life is simple and casual.
The desire for independence and privacy increases among the older students and we find that many are happier living in single rooms at Mather House as a group of senior women or with graduate students at Guilford. The pressure of group living is less obvious in the older, smaller houses and the girls find it easier to live more independently of one another away from the “busy” atmosphere of the larger dorms. Some are happier in even smaller groups at Andrews, which is a cooperative house for juniors and seniors, or at Perkins, which serves both as intersorority headquarters and as a residence for members of each of the sororities. Our latest experiment with independent dormitories is Claud Foster, formerly a men’s dormitory, which was moved to the west side of Mather House last summer. It is larger than Mather or Guilford, but it provides another house at the center of the campus for juniors and seniors who want to be close to the library and the laboratories and who want to live more independently.
Yes, the appearance of the campus has changed a great deal during the past decade and some of our alumnae might be surprised at the different, and casual, appearance of the students. But the most important changes are in the minds of the young people who promise to bring to their communities after they graduate a concern for the needs of others and an awareness of basic values that may refresh suburbia as much as they have revitalized Mather.